2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
June 29, 2016

The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a lot more than first appearances might suggest: a true luxury vehicle, a capable off-roader, and a fuel-efficient diesel highway hauler—potentially all in the same build.

The 2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee is a great family vehicle—just one that's also potentially ready to go off-road, tow a trailer or, on occasion, do things that are more workhorse-like than you'd attempt in most other typical family crossovers.

The Grand Cherokee has evolved nicely over the years, keeping that sturdiness but growing more lavish inside. Although just like just about any off-road-ready vehicle of its kind, most owners will find comfort in knowing what it can do—even though they're not likely to actually leave pavement for long.

That said, you pay few penalties for the Grand Cherokee's superior abilities. It rides comfortably, handles reasonably well, and has a stunning, luxury-caliber interior. And with the powertrain lineup ranging from a fuel-efficient turbodiesel V-6 to gasoline V-6 and V-8 engines and a ridiculously quick Grand Cherokee SRT, there's something for everyone—well, everyone who doesn't want a hybrid, that is.

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Today's Jeep Grand Cherokee is quite handsome 'ute, although not everyone is a fan of the thinner, more understated grille that was introduced a couple of years ago. The SUV shape has been made more distinct with help from LED taillights and some better detailing, so there's less in common with the X5 and Touareg, and more with the 1992 original. The cabin is richly furnished, with marvelous textures and materials on the pricey models, and great layout and design even on the basic Laredo. The Grand Cherokee has FCA's best interior, in design and execution, and it's fully competitive with other models carrying luxury badges.

The Grand Cherokee is a five-passenger, two-row model (go to its cousin, the Dodge Durango, if you'd rather have three rows), but interior space is quite good. Multiple color schemes and interesting trim options, like open-pore wood, push the Grand Cherokee ever higher into luxury-vehicle terrain, though it doesn't have the third-row seating or funky-flexible interior of some bigger crossovers.

Three engines are available in the standard Grand Cherokee. Base models use a 3.6-liter V-6, which now makes 295 horsepower and is for 2016 fitted with fuel-saving engine stop-start systems. Then there's the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, which puts out 360 hp. The most efficient and torque-rich option is the turbodiesel 3.0-liter V-6, with 420 lb-ft of torque. It achieves up to 30 mpg on the highway and stretches range to 730 miles, offering best-in-class towing of 7,400 pounds. All three engines are backed by an 8-speed automatic.

The Grand Cherokee also offers an available air suspension, which can improve highway mileage further by lowering at speed. 

The on-road-performance-oriented Grand Cherokee SRT features a 6.4-liter HEMI V-8 that now makes 475 hp and a 0-60 mph time of about 4.8 seconds. With launch control and a sporty 70-percent torque split to the rear in Track mode, it's one of the best-handling SUVs we've driven. 

The Grand Cherokee hasn't given up any of its off-road talent; instead, it's added to it in recent years. The most advanced versions can still clamber over boulders and logs with ease, and the new automatic enables a lower crawl ratio that suits the Ecodiesel especially well. With three four-wheel drive systems, as well as the Selec-Terrain management system, which automatically caters the powertrain settings for the terrain (Sand, Mud, Auto, Snow, and Rock), you have a lot of options, so make sure you opt for the Grand Cherokee with the capability you need.

The 2016 Grand Cherokee carries through with some impressive safety ratings, although it lacks features like GM's center-front airbag or Ford's rear-seat belt airbags. But it does have a useful off-road safety tool set—with items such as hill ascent control, which maintains steady throttle while the Grand Cherokee scrabbles up surfaces a Flex or an Enclave can only dream about.

The Grand Cherokee SRT takes all of the intelligence and all-wheel-drive wizardry, and aims it at the pavement instead—the racetrack, actually, given those performance times. With its own tuning, adaptive air suspension, and a "Selec-Track" powertrain-control system, it welds all that capability into a performance package that rivals the best from Germany. Its 6.4-liter V-8 rips 470 hp to all four wheels on a variable basis through an 8-speed paddle-shifted automatic. Chrysler claims a thrilling 0-60 mph time of 4.8 seconds, and includes launch control so owners can see those numbers, repeatably, on the SRT's Performance Pages screen. That isn't the only impressive number: the quarter-mile's pegged in the mid-13s, top speed hits 160 mph, and 60-0 mph braking cuts things short in just 116 feet.

There's much to love about the Uconnect infotainment systems in the Grand Cherokee (5.0- or 8.4-inch), and the system's cleaner, simpler interface. A piped-in data connection adds cloud-based services like voice-to-text and natural-language navigation via voice commands. And the Summit edition includes every feature imaginable, including a 19-speaker, 825-watt Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, including 12-channel amplifier and three subwoofers. At that level, the only option is a Blu-ray entertainment system—and we'd take iPads and wi-fi connectivity in any case.

For 2016, the Grand Cherokee also adds a new High Altitude special edition that's based on the Overland trim but adds dark chrome exterior trim, a sport suspension, and other tech upgrades.

The EPA has rated the Grand Cherokee from 22 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined for a rear-drive diesel version to 13/19/15 mpg for the thirsty V-8 in the SRT8 model—and nearly everywhere in between those ratings.

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